Gambling in ethnic adolescent populations: An exploratory study of the utility of problem behaviour theory as an explanatory framework

Abstract

Problem gambling is a growing concern among adolescents today. According to recent studies, rates of problem gambling among youth are higher than those reported by adults. Though few in number, studies have also shown certain ethnic communities to be prone to gambling-related problems and related problematic behaviours. As yet, there is no conceptual model available that can guide thinking about the risk factors for, and prevention of, problem gambling among ethnic adolescents. This study aimed to provide an initial perspective on the possible utility of Problem Behaviour Theory, a well-validated model for the emergence of problem behaviours such as alcohol and cannabis use in adolescents. Problem Behaviour Theory posits that the emergence of these behaviours is influenced by three systems of psychosocial influence: the Personality System, the Perceived Environment System and the Behaviour System, in addition to demographic and socialization factors. Problem gambling among youth in various ethnic communities may have the potential to be explained by PBT, as it employs a psychosocial framework to explain adolescent involvement in behaviours socially defined as deviant or inappropriate. We conducted separate focus groups for adolescent and adult members of three ethnocultural communities: Portuguese, Tamil and Polish. Discussions began with general perceptions of the community and gambling, and were guided to the consideration of factors that are important to gambling behaviour. Discussions were taped, transcribed and coded for the presence of general themes and for comments related to specific components of the Problem Behaviour Theory conceptual framework. The results suggested that all three ethnic groups, and both adolescents and adults, viewed the determinants of behaviour, and gambling behaviours in particular, in ways that were consistent with Problem Behaviour Theory. Participants seemed to emphasize in particular the important roles of demographic (particularly religion), socialization and Perceived Environment System factors in influencing the behaviour of young people in their communities. These results suggest that Problem Behaviour Theory may provide a useful model for understanding the emergence of gambling in ethnic adolescent populations. Additionally, it may be useful to assess the validity of other conceptual frameworks using the methods used in this study.

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